Richard Hodgson

Richard Hodgson

Former Morrisons and Waitrose commercial director Richard Hodgson is set to become CEO of Yo Sushi, following the restaurant’s takeover of Canadian operator Bento Sushi last week.

Hodgson was most recently CEO of Pizza Express, a role which he left in May this year. He will join Yo Sushi next month.

He will replace Robin Rowland, who has led Yo for 18 years, during which time the business has grown from three restaurants to 97 sites worldwide. It has also undergone three private equity transactions over the period.

The latest of these was an investment by Mayfair Equity Partners in 2015. At that time, it was agreed that Rowland would be looking to step down. He will however continue on the board as a non-executive director.

Last week Yo confirmed it was buying Bento for CAD100m. It is the second largest sushi brand in North America and the combined businesses recorded sales of approximately £175m over the past 12 months.

During his time at Pizza Express, Hodgson led its international expansion, opened more than 120 new restaurants including in South East Asia and China, acquired its international franchise operations in the UAE and the Far East, and developed its retail business through new deals with supermarkets and online operators.

“Yo Sushi has been an iconic consumer brand for the last 20 years, and the introduction of the Bento brand and offering presents a huge opportunity,” said Hodgson. “I’m excited about joining the newly diversified group at this pivotal point in its development, and working with the team as we capitalise on the new multi-channel multi-brand format.”

Rowland added: “I’m pleased to pass the baton to Richard. Richard inherits a business that continues to go from strength to strength and is now poised for rapid expansion across the group’s range of formats and geographies. I look forward to supporting the group’s growth in a non-executive capacity.”

The appointment of Hodgson will further fuel speculation that it is plotting a move into branded retail in the UK and indeed this was hinted at by Yo chairman Eric Nicoli today.

“I’m delighted to welcome Richard to Yo. He is particularly well-suited to drive the next stage of the group’s growth and development. He arrives with an impressive reputation for motivating management teams and a strong background in grocery that is rare in the casual dining sector. His extensive experience in food retailing will also help the group achieve its full potential as a global, multi-channel, multi-format and multi-brand purveyor of Japanese cuisine.”